Fresh concerns over Notts ‘super-council’

Fresh concerns Nottinghamshire’s district councils could be scrapped have been voiced after a leaked Whitehall report suggested plans for a local government ‘levelling up’ overhaul.

Monday, 13th December 2021, 11:01 am

A report by The Independent said the Government plans to ‘radically alter’ the structure of local government in England, replacing it with a single-tier, mayoral style system.

At present, most counties like Nottinghamshire are governed under a two-tier system, with district or borough authorities, such as Bassetlaw District Council, and county councils sharing the provision of services.

If the plans went ahead, however, it could see Nottinghamshire’s eight councils scrapped and replaced with one, single authority.

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The reports come as part of an alleged leaked draft of the Government’s ‘Levelling Up White Paper’, due in the new year.

The Independent reports Whitehall plans for a ‘new devolution framework for England’ that would strip back layers of local government and replace them with the single-tier system.

Unsuccessful attempts for similar changes have been made in Nottinghamshire in recent years, with former Conservative county council leader Kay Cutts keen on the plans.

Supporters of the changes say the current system ‘no longer serves the interests of residents and taxpayers’, with Ms Cutts previously describing having eight Nottinghamshire authorities as ‘wasteful and confusing’.

But the proposals, which could have led to what many described as a Nottinghamshire ‘super-council’, were unanimously opposed by district and borough leaders and described as ‘undemocratic’.

Objectors feared local decision-making could be taken away from communities and lead to job losses across the eight authorities.

If the reported Government plans came to fruition, however, the overhaul could be enforced as Whitehall seeks ‘coherent local institutions’.

It comes as Nottinghamshire councils unite to seek a devolution deal from Whitehall, aimed at bringing more decision-making powers and funding from Government on major policy issues.

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Devolution

Coun Ben Bradley, Nottinghamshire Council leader, Mansfield MP and spearhead of the campaign, has repeatedly stressed local government reorganisation does not form part of the devolution bid.

But the reports have led to concern from county councillor, Jason Zadrozny, who is also Ashfield Council leader.

Coun Zadrozny said: “Coun Bradley has put his reputation on the line and promised there are no Government plans to scrap councils like Ashfield.

“It appears leaked plans from Government fly in the face of what he is telling people, including members of his own Conservative Party.

“This bad news could extend to multiple job losses and change our way of life forever.

“I have written to Coun Bradley asking for urgent clarification and sought an assurance he will keep his word and fight to save the local councils residents hold so dear.”

Coun Bradley said: “Councils across Nottinghamshire have enjoyed a positive relationship over recent months, working on plans to collaborate on services and push for more powers from Whitehall.

“We’ve never raised reorganisation and we’ve never requested it.

“There’s no reason that should change based on rumours. We need to wait and see what is in the Levelling Up White Paper.”

He said the Nottinghamshire devolution plan has already been published, with no suggestions of a local government overhaul.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We do not comment on leaks. Work is progressing well on the Levelling Up White Paper, which will be published in January.”